More than 150 toys were donated to two local nonprofit agencies as part of Operation Pack the Sleigh, a holiday toy drive by Cal State San Bernardino’s Veterans Success Center and the Office of Community Engagement, and the U.S. Army 437th Medical Company.

The toys were for children between the ages of toddler to 14 years and were donated on Dec. 5 to Option House, Inc. and Time for Change Foundation, both in San Bernardino, according to Agustin Ramirez, director of the Veterans Success Center. The collected toys had a total value of about $1,500.

“I am so proud of the work of our partners in Community Engagement and the 437th Medical Company, and so proud of the generous spirit of our campus and community,” Ramirez wrote in an email. “Together we have brought joy to many children this holiday season.” 

Each group took on a different role in the operation.

Community Engagement identified two community partners to accept the toy donations; the Veteran Success Center created the promotional materials to solicit donations, which were distributed throughout the month of November to campus, listservs and social media; and the 437th Medical Company served as the collection point and distributors of the donations, Ramirez said.

By Dec. 1, the collected toys were donated to Operation Pack the Sleigh at March Air Reserve Base, care of the 437th. On the evening of Dec. 5, the 437th rolled out four caravans of medical vehicles to the donation centers and delivered the cargo, Ramirez said.

Vanessa Perez, the associate director for the Time for Change Foundation, praised OPS for its contributions.

“Please allow me to take this moment to express our heartfelt thanks and appreciation for your donation of Christmas gifts. Time for Change Foundation could not be successful in helping homeless women and children become self-sufficient without the support of people like you,” Perez said. “Your donation allows us to continue to provide valuable resources to assist women and their children with housing and supportive services in our community. Your concern for the welfare of others enables us to give these women the much needed aspiration to change their lives. Once again, we are very grateful for your donation and support and look forward to a continued partnership in making our community a better place for families to live and thrive.”

Diane Podolske, director for the Office of Community Engagement, said she was glad to find a way the campus could contribute to address a community need, even given COVID-19 restrictions.

“I hope our donation of gifts, while not in person as we would prefer, still provides a message of hope to these families in need,” Podolske said. “We are currently a virtual campus, but that does not mean that our commitment to being a good neighbor has left San Bernardino. The CSUSB community remains dedicated to working with our nonprofit partners and others for the public good.”

The 437th Medical Company is a reserve unit of the U.S. Army stationed at March Air Reserve Base, Riverside. Recently they mobilized in response to COVID-19. Field training provides opportunities for soldiers and their command to improve procedures and total patient care in the field. With OPS, the company was able to complete critical training while simultaneously delivering donations to the nonprofits thereby fulfilling two core commitments: mission readiness and community service.